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Basketball fever up in Lincoln Co.

Basketball fever is rising in Lincoln County. The BrookhavenAcademy Cougars and Lady Cougars have cleared their first hurdlesin the MPSA Class AA State Tournament at Grenada Kirk. Their nextchallenge arrives in Friday’s semifinals.

Win or lose tomorrow, the Cougars (24-8) and Lady Cougars(31-3), coached by Dale Watts and Barry Gray respectively, havequalified for the Overall tourney next week at Mississippi Collegein Clinton.

Meanwhile, the Brookhaven Lady Panthers have Class 4A statechampionship dreams as they travel to Stone County at Wiggins toface Moss Point tonight at 8:30 in the South quarterfinals. Theyneed a win to reach Friday’s semifinals and continue their march tothe MHSAA State Tournament at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jacksonnext week.

At West Lincoln, Jack Case Gymnasium is decorated with green andwhite balloons. The Lady Bears are the host team for the Class 1ASouth Mississippi Tournament quarterfinals today. Semifinals areFriday, followed by the consolation and championship games Saturdaynight. Hopefully, the Lady Bears will beat Thomastown tonight.Otherwise, it will be a long weekend for the home folks.

While the West Lincoln girls are at home, the Bears are makingthe long ride to Maben today for a 5:30 match with the East WebsterWolverines. Coach Lane Young coaches both West Lincoln teams so hehas an obvious problem. He can clone himself or let West Lincolnprincipal Jason Case coach one of the teams.

In the meantime, Young has been busy preparing the gymnasium forfour games today and tonight. Action starts at 4 p.m., with EastOktibbeha facing Sebastopol. McAdams faces Pelahatchie at 5:30,followed by Pisgah versus Weir at 7.

East Oktibbeha is led by superstar April Sykes, a Rutgerssignee. Sykes, a 6-foot guard; and LaSondra Barrett of JacksonMurrah have been selected to represent Mississippi in theMcDonald’s All-American game. Barrett, a 6-1 post/forward, hassigned with LSU.

The Lady Panthers (28-5) were Class 4A staterunners-up to Indianola Gentry last season. Coach Freda Craft lostthree starting guards to graduation and the Lady Panthers havestruggled with their perimeter game.

Craft said Moss Point is a short, super-quick team. The tallestLady Tiger is 5-foot-10.

By comparison, BHS features the Twin Towers of 6-3 Swayze Blackand 6-2 Nikki Byrd, along with 6-0 Whitley Shannon. Black and Byrdwere both nominated for the McDonald’s All-American Team. Blacksigned early with LSU and Byrd signed with Ole Miss.

Asked about her team’s chances, Craft said, “We must score a lotbetter and have a better shooting percentage. We have to play toughdefense, too.”

Franklin County’s Lady Bulldogs (24-9), coachedby Charles Moore, are headed for Raymond tonight. They’ll playCollins at 7 in the South 3A quarterfinals.

Both Co-Lin basketball games are packing for what they hope willbe a 4-day stay in northeastern Mississippi. The Wolves and LadyWolves both have qualified for the MACJC State Tournament atItawamba Community College in Fulton. It tips off Monday with 4men’s opening round games, followed by the women on Tuesday.Semifinals are Wednesday and the finals are Thursday night.

The Wolves (17-6 overall and 11-2 in theSouth), coached by Dennis Sims, are seeded No. 1 in theSouth Division. They will face the No. 4 team out of the NorthDivision. Co-Lin has enjoyed an exceptional season by shooting ahigh percentage and playing strong defense. They are led bypreseason All-American forward Greg Truvillion.

The Lady Wolves (17-6, 8-5), seeded No. 4, willplay No. 1 North seed Itawamba Tuesday night. Coach Gwyn Young’steam has struggled offensively and defensively at times in amassive rebuilding year. The Lady Wolves won state and regionalchampionships last season. They advanced to the NJCAA NationalTournament in Salina, Kan., where they finished sixth.

From that outstanding 30-5 squad, all 5 starters graduated,including 6 of the top 8 players. Under the circumstances, Co-Lindid exceptionally well to reach the state tournament and qualifyfor next month’s regional at Mississippi College in Clinton.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com